EDITORIAL NWR Issue 23
William Shakespeare's Welsh connection
For somebody who was not a member of the aristocracy, William Shakespeare's life is exceptionally well documented. He was born in Stratford on Avon on April 23,1564 and undoubtedly attended Stratford's grammar school where his studies would have consisted mainly of Latin studies, learning to read, write and speak the language and studying some of the classical historians, moralists and poets. He married at the age of 18 and by 1592 was established in the theatre in London.
From 1594 onwards he was an important member of the Lord Chamberlain's Company of players (called the King's men after the accession of James I in 1603), acquiring properties in London and Stratford. If he was less well-known in London society than some of his contemporaries, this was because he was too busy producing more than 1 million words of high quality poetic drama in the space of little more than 20 years.
He died on April 23, 1616 and was buried in the chancel of the parish church of Stratford on Avon. Within 7 years his immediate contemporaries had not only raised a monument in the chancel wall attributing to him "the worldly wisdom of Nestor, the genius of Socrates and the poetic art of Virgil" but also published a first edition of his plays in which Ben Jonson declared: "he was not of an age, but for all time!"
In short, the suggestion that Shakespeare was an illiterate rustic and his plays were written by someone else is no more than an early example of the kind of English metropolitan chauvinism/snobbery with which Wales has long been familiar.
The only Shakespearean mystery is the fate of his manuscripts - they were probably destroyed in a theatre fire. As a result, examples of Shakespeare's handwriting beyond the signature on his Will are rare and unproven.
This makes the results of Tom Lloyd-Roberts Elizabethan researches and Shakespeare's Welsh connection (see p11) all the more intriguing. If he is right, he has not only discovered some previously unrecognised Shakespeare verses but verses written in Shakespeare's own hand early in his career.
In the best traditions of historical research, Mr Lloyd-Roberts is not claiming this as fact but as a possibility. He has asked Christ Church, Oxford to arrange for the relevant Lleweni manuscripts in its possession to be examined scientifically. His request should be acted upon.
previous editorial: The year of literature 1995 - and beyond
next editorial: The National Centre for Literature